The Great Dictator[1940]-Hall of Fame

4 06 2011

The great dictator begins with an interesting note,”Any resemblance between Hynkel the dictator and the Jewish barber is purely co-incidental’. Well considering the fact that Chaplin’s evergreen Tramp character sports a mustache which highly resembles Hitler’s and that they were both born with in a week in the same year,everything between Chaplin and Hitler seems coincidental. Like that there seems to be a lot of physical similarities between the both except for their outlook.

In 1940 when the film was released, America did not consider Hitler as a potential danger and their government followed a policy of non-intervention at first when it came to matters dealing with Europe. Not even American Jews viewed Hitler as an archetype of evil. And there lies Charlie Chaplin’s great vision in projecting Hitler as we now know.

Hitler vs Chaplin

The Great Dictator is Chaplin’s first talkie, leaving behind his stardom of the bygone silent era. Chaplin plays the dual roles of commiserate ,nameless jewish barber and Adenoid Hynkel,a despotic dictator who rose to power in Tomainia while the former was recovering from an injury induced amnesia after World War I.The antagonist in this movie is most definitely Hynkel[read Hitler] but we never feel any sort of revulsion towards the dictator,mostly because we don’t have time to be disgusted with him.Charlie chaplin plays his role as if he was born to caricature hitler and he is so effective that he imitates hitler’s way of speaking[with saliva all bursting out while he is at a speech!] with utmost precision and yet makes us laugh for its apparent buffoonish overtones.There are plenty of side cast in this movie who play important roles and add humor to the excellent script of Chaplin but the one who stands out among them all is unarguably Chaplin himself.

Chaplin has used music in this movie to an undefinable level,incorporating into his physical comedy with great dynamism.Two particularly noteworthy scenes are “The shaving” scene and the ‘Globe-ballet” scene.Both these scenes are blended with classic musicals with such a perfection only Chaplin could manage.The director-actor equation seems to be in perfect equilibrium for chaplin becuase the way he amalgamated the tragic realities of holocaust and comical side of nazi authoritarianism is really a work of genius.With all that has been said, there is no denying the fact that there are some moments in the film where tongue in cheek dialogues and physical buffoonery can be tiring.

Hynkel With Globe

Chaplin shows the lives of Jewish people with great respect and doesn’t force anything on the viewers.For Chaplin The Great Dictator was a really personal movie and this is clearly evident from the barber’s emotional speech about humanity at the end of the film.Throughout the film barber sports an artificial voice for his dialogues but for the final speech, it seems the voice is coming directly from the Chaplin’s heart.

More than 70 years since the movie’s release, Chaplin through his satire on totalitarianism and its evils is still able to move,inspire and tickle the funny bones of audience at the same time.And that definitely qualifies this movie for a place in The Great Movies list of Movie Junkyard.

Trivia

1.Some of the real life characters and names of geographical locations caricatured by Chaplin.

::Hitler-Dictator  of Germany – Hynkel – Dictator of Tomainia

::Mussolini-Dictator of Italy   – Napaloni – Dictator of Bacteria

2.During Hynkel’s speech, there are several recognizable German words used. Most popular are “Wienerschnitzel” (a Viennese style breaded veal cutlet), and “Sauerkraut” (a kind of sour preserved cabbage). Others are “Leberwurst” and “Blitzkrieg”. Though some other utterances vaguely resemble words in German, the speech is actually gibberish. Several times in the film, Hynkel utters “cheese und cracken!” in the context of an obscenity.

3.When this film was released, Adolf Hitler banned it in Germany and in all countries occupied by the Nazis. Curiosity eventually got the best of him and he had a print brought in through Portugal. He screened it not once but twice. Unfortunately, history did not record his reaction to the film. When told of this, Charles Chaplin said, “I’d give anything to know what he thought of it.”

4.Charles Chaplin blinks fewer than ten times during the entire final speech, which lasts over five minutes.

Reference-IMDB





To Kill a Mockingbird [1962]-Hall of Fame

3 06 2011

When I first saw American Film Institutes list of Greatest movie heroes of the 20th century,i was really disappointed to not see the The blonde’s name on the list.I have always thought Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of Blondie was the ideal example of being a hero and that was the time when I associated masculinity with heroism.But times have changed and I don’t blame AFI who voted Atticus Finch as greatest movie hero ever.

To kill a mocking bird which was released in 1962 is a perfect example of how the charm of the source material can transform the movie into a classic.The movie is based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer winning novel of the same name.The story by Lee is so intricately carved that it brings out the depression era of America quite soulfully through the eyes of  6 year old  Scout played by Mary Badham.The movie begins with her Voice Over Narration “Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932, when I first knew it.”This fact is quite effectively established by the slow yet involving pace of the movie.Scout’s father, Atticus Finch is a lawyer and a bona fide one at that.The role played by Gregory Peck is a widower with 2 kids,Jem and Scout.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch

The most part of the movie deals with Scot and Jems adventures with Dill who is spending his summer with aunt Stephanie.They go spy on Maycomb’s supposed boogey man Boo who is said to be chained to his bed.There are lots of scenes in this movie which makes the audience nostalgic about their childhood.Mean while as a parallel yet linked storyline Atticus Finch is defending a black man who is alleged to have raped a white woman.This part of the movie brings out the social structure of America that was prevalent in early part of the 20th century where black  people were subjugated more intensely.The scenes in which Scout and Jem are taught by their father about different perspectives through which one has to look at people’s characters before assessing them are quite heartening.There is a dialogue in the movie which I found really interesting where Finch asks Scout whether she knows what a “compromise ” means to which Scot answers rather innocently “bending the law?”.

Jem and Scout

Jem and Scout

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is marvelous.He plays his role with such perfection that his role is said to be an inspirational factor for many who take up law as their profession.Mary Badham as Scout and Philip Alford as Jem were a delight to watch as their performance brings  out the sinlessness of childhood.But almost all other characters in the movie look like mere caricatures[except may be Dill played John Megna] thanks to mediocre direction.

Even though Mulligan was able to reflect the warmth in the movie,it has too many structural flaws both in the script and its execution.Mulligan maybe doubted for his sincerity when he visualizes a novel which puts forward the prejudices against a colored man in the society.For example black men shown as relative and the friends of the accused are always shown in the background with little dialogue whatsoever.Their casting makes us feel that they were just being used by the director to fill  the screen space.Even though a lot of screen time is dedicated to unnecessary white characters, the wife of Tom Robinson[accused] is given not even a single complete dialogue.The execution of climax by the director seemed forced and half-baked.

This movie would have been sure shot nominee for my all time best movie for its story,characters and the lead cast.But sadly Robert Mulligan’s direction is no great shake.But still when my rational side of a movie buff says the movie is good, my heart says it is great.And since for a movie, soul is the only thing that ever matters and hence I am adding this movie to Movie Junkyard’s Great Movies list.

P.S-When you see the film take a close look at “Boo” Radley,well he is none other than Robert Duvall who is known for his dialogue “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”Lieutenant Colonel William “Bill” Kilgore in the movie “Apocalypse Now“]





Casino[1995]

30 11 2010

In 1983, Sam “Ace” Rothstein (De Niro) exits a restaurant and gets into his car, which explodes when he turns it on. Sam then narrates the story, and flashes back to the beginning.BOOM!Yes,the movie starts with a bang and this isn’t the only bang involved especially because of the violence involved in the film!Thanks to Nicky Santoro[Joe Pesci],the ultimate badass in town who happens to be a childhood friend of Sam Rothstein now runs an A-list casino named Tangiers in Vegas.

Some mob bosses wanted Sam to be the casino boss so they could “skim” off the money that is flowing in through the casino.Sam does his job well and money starts flowing across the Las Vegas desert towards the gangsters.All was well until the hot-headed Nicholas “Nicky” Santoro makes an appearance at the “sin city”.I havent seen any other director of Scorsese’s class stereotyping his own characters in a movie.The only time I have seen Joe Pesci[as of now] is in Scorsese movies[with an exception of a comedy film],and every time he is the same bad ass gangster in all Scorsese movies and he helps in getting the movie into “most uses of the word fuck in the movies” list.

Sam Rothstein’s trouble starts when Nicky Santoro begins an organised gangster roll in the city.Whenever nicky gets in to trouble Rothstein’s name is also dragged into the news due to his long time association with Nicky.In the mean time Sam falls for a call girl,Ginger and makes her to marry him by showering her with expensive  jewelery,clothes and all other stuffs of the luxury kind.Finally Sam and ginger easily became the “happily married” couple in Vegas.But the happy times soon comes to an end when Sam realised that his wife still maintains contact with her Pimp boyfriend back in town.All hell breaks loose in their marriage life.The role Ginger McKenna played by Sharon Stone fetched her the Academy Award.And she deserves it because every time she is on-screen she defines the word “bitch”.The funny thing is Ace knows that Ginger is a bitch and he even admit it through his narration,but he just cant shut his world to Ginger because he is madly in love with her.So madly in love that he  buys millions worth of jewelry just for her and puts millions of dollars in cash in a bank under her name.Through out his narration,he says that he is doing all this because he trust his wife as though he has a doubt in his mind.De Niro effectively evokes sympathy for Sam, and Pesci and Stone does their best to evoke hatred!

Casino is full of Voice over narration of its lead characters.Just after the opening sequence the narrations start explaining how the mobsters skimmed money off the casino.The information is in very fine tuned detail that I found it very hard to comprehend how the system worked.Maybe that’s the point,Scorsese just wanted us to understand that gangsters looted money from the casino.Maybe he just wanted the audience to get the feel of how fast system works  and how complicated it is.Scorcese brings a lot of energy into the movie through the rich and well contained dialogues in the pacy screenplay.The 3 Hour running time just felt like a whiz as the movie was entertainment at its best.Robert De Niro once again proved that he belongs to the list of class actors.Joe Pesci still remains god to the real life gangster.No one is better than Pesci when it comes to Bad Ass gangster!

Casino,for me is one of the best works by Scorcese,it is on par with Taxi Driver and The Aviator.The movie has such ferocity and momentum which makes it one of the best American Crime movie made till date.To pay tribute towards the number of “fuck” and its derivatives used in the movie I must say that this a Fuckin great movie!

P.S-Many critics say that “Casino”  is the final chapter of his Gangster movies.But i don’t think so,”Gangs Of new York” is a gangster movie based in  19th century.Gangsters are always gangsters,Knives and guns are the only difference!

 





Kites

25 05 2010
Kites

Kites’ opening scenes made me remember the good old Sergio Leone’ Spaghetti westerns with its land scape and set art.But instead of Clint  Eastwood, Kites has Hrithik Roshan with an almost cow-boyish attire.Hrithik is strikingly similar to  ‘Man with no name’  star that i sometimes mistook him for Eastwood.But Hrithik’s acting skills made me feel the difference.Its a great example to exemplify the fact  that charm and good looks is no match for acting skills.

Clint Eastwood

Kites in its core is essentially another Typical Masala Film but with a great deal of freshness.I would like to put it as “Old Masala Tea in a ‘made in US’ tea cup”.It has all essential ingredients to be classified as a masala movie.A Macho star,bikini clad hottie,killer dance moves,action scenes,chase scenes[car,bike and even a balloon!] etc…But the good thing about kites is that all these ingredients have been brewed right to a great exent.

J&Linda

Now onto the story,In Las Vegas, a dance teacher known by the single letter J(Hrithik Roshan). has a side business marrying illegal immigrants in order for them to get green cards. When spoiled casino heiress Gina (Kangana Ranaut) decides she wants him, J. sees another kind of green and goes along. But when Gina brings him home to meet the family—the kind of well-connected kings of the Strip who can torture and kill casino cheats while police and judges look the other way—J. makes a stunning discovery: The fiancee (Bárbara Mori) of Gina’s brother Tony (Nick Brown), who’s going by the name “Natasha,” is actually Linda, the last of his fake wives. Sooner than you can say “love quadrangle,” J. and Linda are on the run, with the homicidal Tony pursuing them across the Southwest as the star-crossed lovers attempt to hide away in Mexico.

Hrithik’s acting can be termed great when compared to his earlier works.Barbara plays a crucial role in supplementing the charm shown by her male lead.But the supporting cast is a junk that they takes away the substance movie has to offer .The  hot headed villain ‘Tony’ played by Nick Brown happen to the worst among them.He is yet another stereotyped badasstic Bollywood NRI villain.Kangana with her brief role has nothing much to offer in terms of acting as it seems that her role in the script is heavily underwritten.Kabir Bedi as Gina’s father looks flat at all the scenes he appear.The worst thing about the film is casting.It seems like Anurag Basu has gone for the ‘perfect looking villains’ rather than skillful actors.

Dance sequence in the film marks a new change in the Bollywood film industry as it doesn’t have any “we all look the same” extras.Even though it cant be called as a musical as it has been claimed by its film makers,music in the movie is apt to its situation.Thankfully there is no lip syncing as the music plays in the background with out cutting drastically into the dramatic scenes.Director has tried to add some melodrama into the story by adding over-sentimental back-stories about leads’ dead parents and of course it hasn’t worked out very well.

The chase scenes seems good considering that it is an Indian production.I dont know how every chase scene in every action movie manages to get some big vehicle[In this case, it is a huge truck transporting a dozen cars] to play a part to make the cars coming in the back to jump and explode in mid air.Director seems to have dumped his high school physics classes explaining Newton’s laws of motion.In a scene Hrithik successfully jumps between two trains which are moving at fast pace.whatever happened to inertia!?.

Since this movie is cited as a romantic action movie,first half seemed pretty much dull and we couldnt experience any chemistry between the leads.But second half becomes more exciting with the film delivering what it promises and only then we sense a believable romance.There isn’t much humour in the movie except the one in which  they squabble in a bank where things have gone horribly wrong.

Now into the technical side,Cinematography seemed like an ill fitting mixture with when it comes to the Las Vegas sequences and a lot care has been taken to make the desert scenes look like a reminiscent of leone’s “Once Up On a Time In The West”.Editing seemed crisp enough when it comes to the chase sequences.Anurag Basu’s direction was above average by trying out a different mode of narrative especially towards the end.But as usually like most desi directors he has certainly copied some stuffs from the west.Especially that ‘shoot out in the rain’ sequence which makes us remember Tom Hanks starring “Road to Perdition” directed by Oscar winning Sam Mendes.

A scene from "Road To Perdition"

Kites as a whole is a must watch for any one who is looking for some breath of freah air among the ususal B grades coming out of the bollywood film industry.The film maker must have put a lot of effort to bring out this really ambitious movie and we must respect that hard work.Roshans and Basu has painstaking tried to craft a trendsetter ,both in terms of substance and style but has fallen short.Kites is far from a brilliant film but definitely is a must watch.
PS
1-I went to see this movie with really low expectations and that situation might have influenced my review.
2-I just visited Rotten Tomatoes websites and found that nearly all US based critics have praised kites but when it came to Indian reviews,critics panned the film outright.I dont Know if it has to do some thing with cultural difference.But I think it maybe due to difference in movie exposure.







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